Sunday, April 10, 2016

Frequently Asked Questions about Gratitude School

Gratitude School
A school for children and families
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Here are answers to several frequently asked questions.  Please check back over time as more questions and answers will be posted.
Is this a homeschool group?
Yes and no.  We think of it as a hybrid between a homeschool group and a traditional school model.  Essentially it is a very small, private school that meets 3 days per week.  We expect to cover a full curricular program of study during our 3 meeting days, with no additional teaching needed at home – unless you want to!  Most educators will tell you that 18 hours of school time is more than enough to cover a full curriculum at the K-3rd grade level.  In future years, we may consider adding more days to the school week if we feel it necessary to cover all of the children’s academic needs richly and appropriately.  For 2016-2017, we are more interested in honoring our students’ developmental need for play, family time, travel and discovery outside of the classroom.
What are the ages/grade levels that will be offered?  What will be the highest grade level?
In the initial year of 2016-2017, we will be offering Kindergarten through 3rd grade.  We are expecting initially to separate our students into two groups, a K-1 younger group and a 2-3 older group, although that will ultimately depend on enrollment.  Several activities will involve the two groups working together in order to foster the sense of community so integral to our mission.
The intention is to attract a dedicated group of families looking for something not otherwise available in Boerne and the surrounding area.  We are hoping the group will be tight-knit, dedicated to the best possible educational experience for our children, and committed to several years of schooling together.  We expect Gratitude Community School to extend through 5th grade, with the possibility of going into 6th grade or beyond depending upon the wishes of our families.
How many kids will there be altogether?
We are hoping for an initial group of 5 or more students.  We can have as many as 10 students in one group and 10 in another.  The teacher/student ratio will not be more than 10:1.  However, we don’t expect to enroll 20 students in the first year.  We understand that taking a chance on a new school is scary for parents!  Families will want to see the school in action before they enroll, and that is completely understandable.  For that reason, we expect the first school year to be a small year in terms of enrollment.  Once we have developed a reputation for exciting and intentional learning and teaching, word-of-mouth will lead to more families wanting to take part.
Where will the school be?
We will be meeting in the educational building at St. John’s Anglican Church in Boerne.  The church’s address is 7 Sisterdale Road, Boerne.  You take Main Street north, past John’s Road and School Road to 1376 (Sisterdale Rd.).  Turn right on 1376 and the church is on the right-hand side about ¼ mile down.  The educational building is a brand new building with several large classrooms, a large meeting room, abundant storage space and an adjoining kitchen.  The church is located on 3+ wooded acres with plenty of room for exploring and play.  While there is no established playground there at this time, we will be setting up an exciting play area for the children filled with interesting materials for tinkering, building, investigating, observing and getting dirty.  We are deeply grateful to the members of the St. John’s congregation for allowing us to use their building in our first year of existence!
What would the school day look like?
We believe young children learn best when they are given the opportunity to learn in short periods of focused instruction and activity, and then allowed frequent breaks for a time of mind-rest, movement and reflection.
There will be no bells and the schedule of the day will be allowed to flow naturally, so that projects that take a longer amount of time will be allowed to continue at a natural pace, never rushed or left incomplete (which can be incredibly frustrating to a working child).
That said, we expect the flow of the day to look something like this:
8:30 - 9:10 a.m.  Enter the classroom, greet your friends and teachers, read on the rug.  Students are asked to arrive at the school by 9:00 a.m. to allow time to get settled in.
9:10 a.m.  Morning meeting to discuss the goals for the day and any other pressing issues.  In our experience, a morning gathering creates a strong feeling of togetherness and community and is a vital part of our day.
9:25 - 10:00 a.m.  Instruction and activities/centers in language arts or math & numeracy
10:00 - 10:20 a.m.  Outside break
10:25 - 11:00 a.m.  Instruction and activities/centers in language arts or math & numeracy
11:00 - 11:20 a.m.  Outside break
11:25 a.m. - Eat lunch outside and then head inside for quiet rest, journal work and story reading
12:00 - 12:35 p.m.  Instruction and activities/centers in science or social studies
12:35 - 12:55 p.m.  Outside break
1:00 - 2:00 p.m.  Work on art projects, music, or elective project or center work.  Art instruction will be presented in depth, leaving ample time for materials exploration and project work.
2:00 - 3:00 p.m.  Outside playtime and pick up.  We understand that families will sometimes need to pick up their child at 2:00 p.m. to allow for extracurricular activities or nap time.  We also know that students will think of the playtime between 2:00 and 3:00 as the best part of the day.  Please feel free to pick up your child any time between the hours of 2:00 and 3:00 p.m.
Will there be benchmarks?  Standardized testing?  How will I know if my child is making progress?
We will not be conducting any standardized testing.  We want to explore and develop the unique abilities and interests of your children, not mold them to fit some idea of what is standard!
We will be creating a portfolio for each child throughout the course of the year.  The portfolio will hold examples of work from the first week to the last, so that students, teachers and parents can observe the continuum of progress represented in the work over time. 
Each student will meet in short, individual meetings with his or her teacher at least once per week in order to review material and determine areas of strength and areas in need of further review.  We will also be creating and posting documentation of learning each week, based on the Reggio Emilia method of observation and documentation.  We encourage parents to visit our classrooms, examine our documentation and learning activities, and read our regular emails and blog posts which will also help to inform you of your child's progress and the progress of the group as a whole.
Teachers will be available for meetings at school or over the phone at any time to discuss your concerns about your child.
How much will it cost?  How do I register?
The total cost for the school year will be $3,000.  The first payment of $300 is a materials and registration fee and is due at the time you register your child.  The remaining $2,700 can be paid in 9 monthly payments of $300 per month, with the first payment due on August 15th and all other payments due on or before the 15th of the month, through April 15th.
To register, please contact Elizabeth Sutton.
Who is putting this together?
Elizabeth Sutton began  her long background in education teaching in a Reggio Emilia-inspired preschool at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts over 20 years ago.  Later, she taught in a mixed sixth, seventh and eighth grade for several years in a Montessori-based charter school in Sacramento, California and completed the K-8 credentialing program for a California teaching credential at Chapman University.  She went on to complete a Master of Arts in Education at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, focused on curriculum construction and school leadership.
Most recently, she has spent the last four years serving at various times as a full-time classroom teacher, substitute teacher and parent volunteer at her children's current school in Helotes  In between her professional teaching gigs, she has volunteer-taught adult literacy and English classes, Sunday School at her church in Bandera, and worked as a college consultant with many anxious and talented high school seniors.
Elizabeth loves to talk about kids, education, policy, and school environments.  It is her greatest expertise and truest passion.
Elizabeth lives in Pipe Creek with her husband, Ronnie, and two children, Abraham and Katha Mott.  Ronnie is a Master Electrician and Elizabeth and Ronnie are owners of the family business, Arrow Oak Electric LLC.  When they are not at school or work, the family can be found building and tinkering together (they are always in the middle of some kind of project!) or taking long walks on the country road where they live.
How could I learn more?
Please contact Elizabeth Sutton with any questions, comments or concerns you have.  You are welcome to tour our classrooms and outdoor space (which are a work in progress!) and hear more about our plans for this year and those to come.
Elizabeth can be reached by email at gratitudeschool@gmail.com.
You are also welcome to call or text her at (830) 688-0600.
We can't wait to hear from you!

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